Recently retired Washington orthodontist Dr. Jacqueline Miller is taking on a statewide leadership role in dentistry.
After 29 years in the field, also working in Sullivan and Eureka, Miller will now work full time as Missouri state dental director.
“I’m obviously very excited and honored,” Miller told The Missourian.
The state Office of Dental Health is housed out of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) in Jefferson City. Miller works remotely four days a week and one day in the office in the hybrid-remote position.
“Dr. Miller will continue the public health initiatives put forth by the previous director, Dr. Guy Deyton, and we look forward to her helping to increase the dental professionals’ workforce, which has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Paula Nickelson, acting DHSS director, said in a statement.
Miller, who will oversee a staff of 10, said she will lead several initiatives to keep and attract new dentists, dental assistants and hygienists to the field. She said the state has lost 10 percent of its dental workforce since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she plans to focus on rural areas and places with a lack of dentists.
“There are quite a few counties in Missouri that don’t have access to dental care,” Miller said.
Some dentists retired during the pandemic, while some dental assistants and hygienists found jobs outside dentistry, Miller said.
Miller plans to work on several programs to increase interest in the field, including starting educating prospective dental assistants in high school. “Maybe as a senior in high school, they can take the courses necessary to become a certified dental assistant,” she said.
Miller also looks to increase continuing education in dentistry and offer expanded function dental assistant certifications, which allow dental assistants to get additional schooling and training that will allow them to perform tasks dentists have done previously.
“Any type of education that will not only keep people in the dental field but also generate interest for more assistants and more hygienists and dentists for that matter,” she said.
While she works primarily out of Washington, Miller will also build collaboration with other dental entities, such as the Missouri Dental Association, the Missouri Dental Hygiene Association, the Coalition for Oral Health and the American Dental Association. She also will work with dental directors in other states to improve overall oral health.
Miller also plans to promote community water fluoridation.
“Fluoridation has been considered one of the top 10 public health initiatives that have made a huge difference to oral health,” she said. “It decreases dental decay.”
And dental decay can impact the heart, diabetes and cause stroke, Miller said.
“Your oral health is almost a mirror to the rest of your body,” she said. “Having good oral health also leads to good overall general health.”
Miller also oversees the Preventive Services Program, which provides sealant and fluoride varnish to children across Missouri, having assisted more than 90,000 children.
“Anything that is going to improve the oral health of Missouri citizens is what we work toward,” she said.
Miller has served in multiple leadership positions with the American Association of Orthodontics and was the first woman to be president of the Midwestern Society of Orthodontists, according to the news release. She is also a longtime volunteer, making 24 dental mission trips and taking part in Give Kids a Smile and Missouri Mission of Mercy.
A St. Francis Borgia Regional High School grad, Miller graduated “with distinction” from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Dental School in 1991 with a doctor of dental surgery degree, according to previous Missourian reporting. She later received a master’s degree in orthodontics from the University of Nebraska-Medical Center-College of Dentistry.
Earlier this year, Miller earned an online master’s degree in public health from A.T. Still University-Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health. She told the Missourian in May that she planned to go into the field of public health as an “encore career.”
Miller started her career at her father, Dr. Frank Miller’s practice, Tri County Orthodontics, in 1993. She later took it over, and then merged with Dr. Kevin Walde’s practice in 2015.